Laurence Andrews

Hello, High Halstow

We’ve finally moved! It’s been a longer than expected journey and the past few weeks in particular have been really very stressful, but at last we’re finally in our new home. One week in and we absolutely love it and are so, so happy that everything worked out.

The new house has four bedrooms, a small study/office, is detached with a south-facing garden, garage and driveway for two cars. It’s bigger than our Upnor house, but not enormous and importantly has space in the places that is important for us now. Let me give you the virtual, written tour…

Downstairs, there is a living room at the back, which is plenty big enough for what we need now, smaller than Upnor but just fine. Because the house is south facing we get tons of gorgeous bright light into the lounge through the rear sliding doors. The layout of the room means I have a superb spot for my arm chair, right in front of the TV! There’s also a gas fireplace, which we don’t like and will remove, but isn’t an immediate priority. We’re going to hold off on replacing the carpet until we’ve removed the fireplace so will put up with the horrible blue carpet that is there now. In the past week we have put up some curtains from Dunelm, which were an absolute bargain and fit really well. Charlotte’s rock-a-roo fits just in front of the sliding doors so she has a nice view of the TV and room.

The kitchen is also at the rear which is really nice as you can look out to the garden while doing the washing up. It is a lot bigger than Upnor and has space for a kitchen table, a big deal for us, as it means we can have Charlotte in a chair or high chair while we’re cooking or eating, impossible at Upnor. The kitchen space also means that we can have our meals at the table, rather than on our lap (which became a terrible habit while at Upnor as our table was in the cold conservatory). The kitchen is old and needs replacing, but will be fine for the next few years. Very annoyingly, the cooker which seems to be the original (from 1999) doesn’t actually work, bit pissed off that wasn’t pointed out, to be honest. We’ve had to buy a new one and manage for the past week with ‘hob’ dinners! We also bought a new gas hob as the current one also isn’t great. For now, we bought basically the cheapest options from as we expect we’ll replace the kitchen in a few years time and will want something better/different. That’s probably a bit wasteful, a new hob, cooker and fitting set us back about £600, but not sure what else we could do. The kitchen also has a side door which means we can let the dog in/out from here, rather than having to traipse through the lounge!

At the front we have a separate dining room of a reasonable size with a window out onto the front garden. Right now this room is serving a ‘box room’ for all our junk, but will eventually be a family/play room so we can try to keep kids toys contained to one space (i.e. not in the lounge). We have a big play mat, sofa, sideboard etc which will live in here. We’ll also probably put in a TV and a few other bits. We’re going to replace the carpet here straight away but only with something inexpensive since it’ll probably get stained at some point.

On the other side at the front, there is a small office, is about 2 x 2.5m. So far, I love it! I can have my desk in front of the window, which means I get natural light for video calls with a blank wall behind me. I can also see when there are delivery people arriving before the dog goes mad, giving me time to mute. I really love that the office is downstairs and seems to help a lot with it not feeling like I’m just sitting in a bedroom all day. My desk doesn’t really fit, nor does any of the furniture which is really annoying, I will probably have to buy some new to make it work better. Possibly a sit/stand desk. Toyed with buying a 2000mm x 1000mm desk which would fit really nice in front of the window, but that’s a hell of a desk for a small room! Right now I’m decorating the office so that it’s ready for when the carpet arrives.

In the hallway of downstairs there is an under-stair cupboard, small toilet and of course a front door. We don’t really like the front door because it doesn’t let any light in and so the hallway looks really dark all the time. We got a quote for a new one, (£1,300!) so will have to wait on that too. We’re going to replace the hallway carpet but plan to put hard flooring though into the kitchen, office and hallway eventually, we’re going to wait until we do that kitchen to do so, as we’d like for it to flow and not have door bars.

Upstairs we have four bedrooms a main bathroom and one with an ensuite. The stairs up need some attention, the are very, very creaky and one of the steps has sunk so needs a bit of attention. before the carpet comes we need to open the ceiling of the under-stair cupboard and repair that. The landing is a nice size and central to the house. The two front bedrooms are the biggest, we have the one above the dining room and charlotte has the room above the office. In Charlotte’s room we’ve been decorating which wasn’t a small job, we chose to remove the enormous sliding mirrored wardrobes because these don’t seem super kid-friendly. Getting these out involved smashing them - not a fun job! We’ve ordered her some Ikea wardrobes instead which we designed with them on a zoom call - which was 100 times easier than going to the store! We’ve also taken up some of the floor as we need to put some sockets in to one of the walls where there aren’t any today for a lamp and stuff. We’re going to take the opportunity to put a light into the porch while the floor is up, which will hopefully avoid us needing to pull the carpet up again in the future.

Our room is not the largest, but has the right shape for our kingsize bed, charlotte’s next-to-me bed, our drawers and dexter’s steps. We don’t have the ensuite to this room, but the room that does is a bit too narrow for our bed. We quite like the bedroom, it’s smaller than in Upnor, but just fine and with a nice window looking out onto the street. We’re going to decorate this room before the carpet comes too, which is going to be a bit close for time!

The big rear bedroom with the en-suite will be our guest room, it’s big enough for a double bed and has another huge mirrored sliding wardrobe where we’ll keep most of our clothes. We’re not going to decorate this room straight away or replace the carpet, so we’ll live with it for now. The bathroom has been replaced recently and isn’t to our taste but is just fine. We have bought a new double bed for this room, the exact same bed we sold on Facebook a few months ago (doh!).

Last we have a small, well, tiny fourth bedroom which is currently serving as our dressing room and box room. This works reasonably well, although a normal morning routine right now involves us sleeping in our room, showering in the guest en-suite and dressing in the fourth bedroom - a bit awkward! Our hope with this room is to get it setup as a dressing/craft room for the time being. Ideally it’ll serve as an office for Victoria when she returns to work since she will also be based at home.

Oh yes, there’s also a main bathroom which has a lovely big bath. Dispassionately, it doesn’t have an over-bath shower so we’re going to need to address that. The bathroom was also fitted at the same time as the en-suite, so isn’t too bad at all. Since the heating and plumbing system in the house is ‘gravity fed’ we need to fit a shower pump to the hot water system for a new shower. The shower in the en-suite has it’s own separate pump. This pump should also fix the hot water flow-rate which isn’t currently anything to shout about.

I haven’t talked about the Garage, which is comparable to our old garage, there’s not a great deal of electric and no pluming out there at the moment, so we’re going to need to fix that. We’d like to put the washer and dryer out there so that we don’t have to listen to the washing machine going during the day. We also need to put in a new rear door as the one that’s there at the moment is just timber with a single glass pane, so not very secure. Since moving in we have put some shelves up to help with storage, that’s at least allowed us to clear some of the floor space!

The garden is not huge, but perfectly adequate. It’s shaped a bit like a T so has three ‘sections’ which breaks it up quite nicely. The previous owner has done a great job planting borders with flowers and shrubs, we have tons of daffodils and spring flowers which is nice. We also have a front garden which is actually quote big, but a bit of a useless space, so we might look at putting a driveway or something in one day.

….and that’s the wordy tour of the house! I’ll shared more about our future plans another time, but in short we hope to make the lounge bigger, extending into the garage space and opening up to the kitchen, making a large kitchen/lounge/diner with big bi-folds to the back. We’d like to put in another replacement garage and build a heated/insulated utility room to the rear. Above the extended lounge we’d like to put in a large master bedroom with ensuite in place of the small fourth bedroom. We’d probably look to replace the heating system at the same time, maybe put in underfloor heating throughout the downstairs and get the house ready for a ASHP. The top roof is ideal for solar panels too so perhaps that’s something to look at. Some neighbours have extended into the loft space, which is also worth considering, the stairs/landing are ideal for this and the roof pitch is good for it to work too. All in good time though, because none of this is going to be cheap!

Following the move-in we’ve spent a fair bit of homewares/improvements, with the removal costs, new furniture, boiler servicing, decorating, carpets, appliances and curtains/blinds we’ve spent about £6-7k. The move itself with estate agents, stamp duty, solicitor fees, etc has cost us just shy of £24k, which isn’t a small sum. The new house has extended our borrowing by about £150k, with mortgage overpayments to meet our 2050 mortgage-free goal we’ve added £700 a month to our outgoings, plus more for council tax, utilities, etc. We’ve obviously increased our LTV, but the expectation is that this house should increase more in value than Upnor, so that’s inevitable. Totally worth it though. We’re really happy.

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